“the Great Gatsby” Commentary – Opening Passage in Chapter Iv
The opening excerpt from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “The Great Gatsby” in chapter four puts emphasis on Gatsby’s mysterious character and listing all the name of the wealthiest people that were invited to Gatsby’s party that “summer” (9). In the first part of the passage, the guests invited to the party are described as shallow for having no knowledge about Gatsby but only taking advantages from the party. It shows that the guests lack moral compassion and a subtle care for Gatsby, spreading rumors about how he has “killed a man”(5) and being cousins with a “devil” (6).
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The second part moves along to the names listed from the wealthy class of society of the West and East Egg which lacks the moral of society alike one of the guest who has “killed himself” (44) and another who “strangled” (34) his wife. This shows the moral decay in the upper class and how they are unhappy with what they have, in relation to Gatsby’s discontent of his life because of his longing for Daisy. Fitzgerald distinctly illustrates Gatsby’s mysterious past through the gossip between the “young ladies. (4) The author also portrays the names listed as ignorant and unsatisfied with their life through Nick’s eyes by the use of symbolism and characterization of names from the East and West Egg. Through the gossips and rumors in the first part of the passage that were spread out by the “ladies” (4) about Gatsby’s past, Fitzgerald successfully portrays and emphasizes Gatsby’s suspicious character. This helps develop more curiosity for Nick Carraway and the readers by depicting the dialogues through nameless minor characters.
It helped developed the plot quickly as to when the readers read the first paragraph of the passage, they will quickly understand the ignorant guests that attend the parties but do not even make an effort to know the host. The rumors of Gatsby “killing a man” (5) further developed the limited knowledge of Gatsby’s character through the eyes of many characters especially through an outsiders view from the ladies for example.
The readers were introduced to a possible career path and Gatsby’s source for wealth, claiming that he is a “bootlegger” (4), although as Nick described the ladies talking, it did not seem as trusting as they wander around the party carelessly passing through “cocktails” (4) and “flowers”. (5) However, as the readers will find later in the book, the claim of his career is proven to be true. With claims for Gatsby being elated to “Von Hindenburg” and “second cousin to the devil” (6), this further develops Gatsby’s dubious life and makes the reader crave for more information on Gatsby. Fitzgerald also uses symbolism through the long listed “gray” (10) names to further develop the ignorance and hollowness of higher society in the second part of the excerpt. These were narrated by introducing one family or name at a time, creating an image of each guest coming in to the party one at a time, creating an all nostalgic atmosphere.
The names were described as “gray” (10), comparable to how the valley of the ashes in chapter two made the people in the valley lifeless and dull like George Wilson for example. Moreover, the use of symbolism through the color gray can also be described as desolated and tedious, suggesting that beneath all the glamour and opulence of the higher class, they lack compassion and any sympathy, as proven to when no one showed up for Gatsby’s funeral in chapter nine.
The moral decay of the upper class can be reflected through how Nick describes the paper as being “disintegrating at its folds” (9), which suggest that beneath all the flashy and fake external, there are “gray” (10) ashes that are present within which is “disintegrating” (9) from time to time as their shallowness are becoming more obvious and shining through their ostentatious exteriors emphasizing on the theme of appearance versus reality.
In addition, negative characterization of each guests were used among the lengthy lists of names to help emphasize the moral flaws of the upper class and their dissatisfaction with their life. Gatsby invited only all the wealthiest people to his party including Henry L. Palmetto who committed suicide by “jumping in front of a subway train” (44) and G. Earl Muldoon who “strangled his wife”(34).
This characterization of the upper class indicates that they are not perfect and behind all the delusions of wealth the readers are set in, lays a discontent group of people who appear to be rich and happy on the outside, but deals with emotionally set problems with how lifeless they have become because of their fascination with wealth. The use of names in the passage also suggests connotative meanings associated to animals such as “George Duckweed and Francis Bull” (40-41), more of these animal associated names were presented in the passage to portray the emptiness of higher society and how they possess animal qualities. NK) These animal qualities indicate their hollowness and their careless characteristics. Both Duckweed and Bull are associated with the theatrical path, emphasizing on the appearance versus reality theme of which they have to act as someone else on the outside but is something completely different on the inside. Overall, this excerpt may first seem as only a bunch of names listed together, but comparable to the theme of appearances versus reality, there are deeper meanings behind those names which were presented through symbolism and so forth.
It is a very unique passage as it limits the knowledge of Gatsby’s mysterious character whilst opening up to revealing the guests invited to the summer party at Gatsby’s mansion. Furthermore, this passage successfully conveys moral decays in the upper class of the West and East Eggs through the characterization of the names which is also a reflection of Gatsby. Most of the names listed can be seen as if they were discontent with what they have, similar to Gatsby and how he is discontent with his life because Daisy is not in his life. Bibliography NK. Chapter Four. 02 Febuary 2010. 01 Febuary 2010 .